The Life Care Center of Kirkland, which has been linked to the majority of COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases in the United States, gave a press briefing regarding the virus for the first time on Saturday, March 7, in front of the facility.
According to Tim Killian, a public liaison for the center, this will be the first of several daily media briefings.
“It’s been a very trying time for everyone,” Killian said.
Killian shared how numbers and figures have changed since Feb. 19 — the first date that a Life Care patient was transferred to a local hospital and then subsequently tested positive for a coronavirus infection.
As of the Feb. 19, Killian said, there were 120 residents at Life Care Kirkland. Of those 120 residents, 54 have since been transferred to various nearby hospitals.
The deaths associated with the facility, according to Killian, amount to 26 between Feb. 19 and March 7. That includes 15 patients who have died in local hospitals.
Of those 15, 13 have positively tested for coronavirus.
Since Feb. 19, Killian noted that 11 patients have died within the facility on top of the 15 at hospitals. He clarified that the center typically sees three to seven deaths monthly, and that there have not yet been any reports post-mortem whether those in-facility patients tested positive for coronavirus.
Currently, there are 63 patients at Life Care Kirkland. Of those, six are showing symptoms.
Killian said that all residents are being confined to their rooms. Once a patient appears to have acute symptoms — which Killian said would be specified in the future — is when Life Care decides to transfer a resident to a hospital.
On March 5, Life Care Kirkland received a load of 45 coronavirus testing kits. Before that, Killian said, the facility had no kits with which to test residents.
He said that the number of test kits is still insufficient, but could not specify as of March 7 who Life Care has reached out to to receive more.
On Feb. 19, there were 180 employees associated with Life Care Kirkland. Killian said that of that initial 180, 70 are now showing coronavirus symptoms.
He said that any employees who are symptomatic are asked to stay home. Killian could not confirm as of March 7 whether staff in self-quarantine are being paid.
Killian addressed other concerns during the conference. He said that, currently, only “essential” employees are able to go inside the facility. Visitors are turned away.
He said, to his knowledge no employees of the facility have been hospitalized.
“Our experience with this so far has shown that the virus is volatile and unpredictable,” Killian said. “We’ve had patients who, within an hour’s time, show no symptoms to going to acute symptoms and being transferred to the hospital. And we’ve had patients die relatively quickly under those circumstances…We know very little about how fast this may act.”
Employees, Killian said, are trained for “best practices” to abide by during a quarantine situation — as in “suiting up,” wearing face masks and gloves and following facility guidelines.
“They truly are heroes,” he said of those who are continuing to work.
Killian noted that today (March 7) the facility is receiving additional help from nurses, nurse practitioners and at least one supplemental doctor. He could not specify which outside agencies each was affiliated with as of the conference.
He said that outside help from the CDC has been rotating in and out of the center rather than coming all at one time.
When asked what assurance he could give to family members who are concerned about their loved ones, Killian was not able to give any definitive statements.
“I can say that staff is caring for them to the best ability that they can,” Killian said. “We cannot make any promises that further exposure within the facility is not happening.”